Seafood and Chicken Gumbo

There’s something quite romantic about a home cooked gumbo. Not Valentine’s Day romantic, but romantic in the sense that it conjures up images in your head of another place and time that you long for.  It’s certainly not a dish that you come across very often in Sydney, but it was one of those dishes that I always wanted to make.  With a week off down the coast and nothing on the schedule but cooking and eating, I had my perfect setting for making this dish.

I got this recipe from Ride or Fry by Dante Gonzales, but adapted it to what I was able to find around Jervis Bay.   It’s a fantastic book that was given to me from my beautiful wife for Christmas and its filled with American classics with hints of Caribbean, Mexican and Asian influences.  There are plenty of things I left off the list like poblano peppers and southern spices that I couldn’t find down the coast, so try to hunt everything down  in advanced before deciding on making this.

You’ll want to start this at least 4-5 hours before you want to serve.

Seafood & Chicken Gumbo. Photo by Emiko Davies

Seafood & Chicken Gumbo. Photo by Emiko Davies

Gumbo Ingredients

  • 2 large green peppers
  • 500g chicken breast, chopped
  • 2 smoked sausages, chopped
  • ½ cup of peanut oil
  • ¾ cup of flour
  • 2 onions
  • 4 celery stalks
  • 2 capsicums
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup of okra, roasted and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of thyme, chopped
  • Spices*
  • ½ teaspoon of chilli flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 400g of raw prawns (with heads and shells)
  • 6-8 Alaskan crab legs
  • 1 can of baby corn
  • ½ cup of chopped parsley

Gumbo Stock

  • 1 onion, shopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2  bay leaves
  • ½ cup of parsley
  • 10 -12 cups of water
  • 1 Chicken carcass
  • Prawn heads and shells
  • 1 Fish carcass
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

*For the spices, add a pinch of each of cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cumin, bay leaf powder, mustard seed, ground cloves, and fennel seed

Stock

Gumbo is all about the stock, so you’ve got to make it from scratch.  And if you play your cards right, it won’t cost you anymore, you won’t have any waste, and your food will taste better in the end.  Instead of just buying chicken breast, buy a whole chicken and use the carcass to make the stock.  Instead of buying shelled prawns, get them whole and use the shells and heads in the stock as well.  Most of the veggies that get thrown into the Gumbo can be used to make the base of the stock, so just make sure you have a few more on hand.

Back to making the gumbo stock.   This can be done a day in advance and you can freeze leftovers, which always come in handy when you need stock down the track.  Add some oil to the pan and throw in your garlic, onions, celery, carrots and let that sizzle for a few minutes.  Add your prawn bits (shells and head), bay leaves, herbs and chicken carcass to the pot.  You can throw in other parts of the chicken as well to later shred into chicken sandwiches, but you want to avoid adding in too much skin. If you have a fish carcass, throw it in now as well.  Top up with enough water to cover everything and then leave it to simmer for the next few hours, skimming scum off the surface once in a while.  When done, pour the stock into a large bowl through a fine sieve and keep aside.

Gumbo

Now that you have your stock, puree the green peppers with 2 cups of stock, and then add it back to the gumbo stock. Get a big pot (the biggest one you have) and heat up a tablespoon of oil on medium high and sauté your chicken and sausage pieces in batches until browned on all sides (about 5 -8 mins).  Don’t worry if you get some meat sticking to the bottom of the pan – it’ll just add to the flavour.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

In the same pot, pour in the rest of the oil and the flour as well, stirring constantly for 20 minutes until a roux forms.  This will take about 20 minutes and you’ll know its ready when it turns thickish and is the colour of chocolate milk.  This is the perfect time to break out the New Orleans jams and make the time float by.

Once you have your roux, throw in your onions, celery, capsicums and garlic, and cook on low heat for about 8-10 mins, stirring regularly.Now add your stock.  Be sure to add it slowly and stir constantly to avoid any lumps.

Return the chicken and sausage to the pot along with cherry tomatoes, bay leaves, chilli flakes, thyme and spice mix.  Cover the pot and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.  Take the lid off and cook for an additional 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Lastly, add the prawns, crab legs, corn, okra and parsley and continue to cook uncovered for 15 minutes.  I had some extra calamari on hand so I threw this into the pot as well.

Your gumbo is now ready!  Slop them into bowls making sure everyone gets a little of everything and serve with rice or French bread and maybe some mixed greens.  Slurp that down with your grin.

Seafood & Chicken Gumbo. Photo by Emiko Davies

Seafood & Chicken Gumbo. Photo by Emiko Davies

Jams

One of the biggest reasons why I made this dish, was my love for southern soul music.  In particular, New Orleans soul music.  New Orleans is the home to so many great funk, jazz and soul artists including The Meters, Eddie Bo, Lee Dorsey, and countless numbers of jazz and big band players.

I’m focusing the mix of music more on the funk end of the spectrum as I think the raw gritty funk matches the gumbo just perfectly.  Funk heads out there will notice that most of the tracks I’ve selected in the Spotify playlist have been cherry picked from the excellent New Orleans Funk compilations by the brilliant Soul Jazz label.  They’ve recently put out volume 3 in the series and they’re all highly recommended.

Sink into the groove while you slurp that soup.

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Brazilian Feijoada

I sometimes get asked what comes first when I post recipes for my blog – the food or the music. Most of the time it comes from a mutual love where I’m so fascinated by a culture that I’m in love with both the food and the music, but this is one where the music came first.   I love Brazilian music, but knew next to nothing about the cuisine so I forced myself to do some research and find a dish that would complement the music.

Not long after, it was clear that I needed to try my hand at feijoada as it was the national dish of Brazil and one that everyone raved about. That and it sounded like one of the meatiest stews I’d ever heard of. I was heading down the south coast for a week of relaxation so I stopped off for a trip to Petersham (Sydney’s little Portugal) and collected some salted beef and various cuts of other meat to make this delicious stew. I’ve heard people just using beef jerky in place of the salted beef, but try to get the real thing if you can.

I plucked this recipe from SBS’ Food Safari – an excellent resource for international cuisines – and amended it slightly based on what I could get my hands on.

Feijoada - photo by my sister Emiko Davies
Feijoada – photo by my sister Emiko Davies

Ingredients (for 6-8 people with leftovers)

  • 500g black beans (not canned)
  • 200g salt dried beef
  • 200g smoked pork ribs, halved through the bone
  • 200g speck or smoked pork belly, cut into 2cm pieces
  • 1 chorizo, halved and sliced
  • 500g smoked pork hock
  • 300g pork scotch fillet, cut into 5cm pieces
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 green chillies, finely chopped
  • white rice
  • kale (or silverbeet)
  • orange segments
  • coriander

Farofa

  • 60g butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 120g of cassava flour
  • 2 tablespoons of finely chopped coriander
  • 1 green chilli, finely chopped

You need to start this at least one day ahead by soaking the beans and salted beef in cold water in separate bowls. The beans will double in size so make sure you have a bowl big enough for this. Refrigerate the beans overnight. For the beef, just make sure you change the water about 4 times so it’s not just sitting in salty water. This will loosen up the beef and get it ready for cooking.

Rinse and drain the beans and beef. The beef should be soft enough to slice through into 2 cm pieces so slice them up and throw them into a large pot along with the beans. Add all the other meat, 2 bay leaves and top up with cold water so everything is covered. Bring to boil, making sure you skim any scum from the surface while you occasionally stir. Once at boil, reduce heat and simmer (covered) for 1 hour.

In a separate pan, heat up some oil on medium and add your onion, garlic, chilli and bay leaf mixture until the onions are soft and transparent. Remove about a cup of the beans from the pot with a slotted spoon and add them to the onion mix. Mash the beans roughly with the back of a wooden spoon and mix well with the onion mix before tossing it all into the feijoada pot.

Cover and cook for another hour, then remove pork hock, shred meat (when cool enough to handle) and return pork meat to the pot. Cook for another hour uncovered (add a little more water if it’s getting too thick), and then taste for seasoning.

In the last hour when you’re cooking the feijoada, this is when you can prep all the lovely sides to the stew.  To make your Farofa, melt the butter in a pan and saute your onions until soft. I didn’t have any cassava flour on me so instead I made use of some breadcrumbs and toasted this in the buttery onion mix for a few minutes. Add your chilli and chopped corriander and put this mixture aside in a bowl.

For the kale, keep this nice a simple and blanche the finely shredded kale in boiling water for about a minute.  Drain the kale, season with salt and pepper and dress with a drizzle of olive oil and put this aside in a separate bowl. With about half an hour to go for your stew, put on enough rice for your guests in your rice cooker or the stove.

When your stew is nice and gooey and the whole house smells of meat, you should be able to put everything together in bowls.  Arrange the rice, stew and kale in everyone’s bowls, then sprinkle with the farofa mixture and top with orange segments and coriander leaves.  Delicious.  You’ll almost certainly have leftovers and like most stews, it’ll taste even better the next day.

Jams

Where do I start with Brazilian music? There’s so much out there and I’m not going to pretend I’m an expert, but instead I’m just going to share the artists and music that I love.  A lot of the Brazilian music that I like stems from the Tropicalia period, which was a cultural movement in the late 60s which resulted in some of the most wild music recorded and inspired the likes of David Byrne, Kurt Cobain and Beck.  It’s a great cross road of psychedelic rock, samba, funk and soul. Truly fascinating and worth buying this Soul Jazz compilation if you want to know more.

Instead of just posting one tune to sum up the dish, I’m going to try using Spotify so you’ll have an entire playlist to cook and eat to.  I’ve selected a range of artists (not just from the Tropicalia period) from the 60s to the 80s with equal parts dreamy landscape, lazy funk and psychedelic fuzz. Enjoy!

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Karaage Chicken Po’ Boy

Following on from my tonkatsu burger post, I’ve decided to take another Japanese staple and combine it with an American classic.  This time, I’ve taken everyone’s favourite Japanese snack –karaage chicken – and added it to the humble New Orleans Po’ Boy.

If you’ve never had the pleasure, karaage chicken is deep fried bite-sized marinated chicken that’s a common izakaya menu item and pretty much tastes like the best KCF popcorn chicken you’ve ever had.  Po’ Boys are sandwiches made famous in New Orleans that typically have either roast meat or fried fish or chicken and served in a French baguette.  Having never been to New Orleans, I’ve never tasted a real Po’ Boy, but from what I’ve heard it’s all about getting the best bread possible.  It’s got to be crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, so make sure you head to the best French bakery in your area to get the proper stuff.

Karaage Chicken Po’ Boy

Ingredients

  • 300 g chicken thigh, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of sake
  • 1 small piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • Cornstarch
  • Vegetable oil for deep frying
  • 1 French baguette
  • Lettuce
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • Japanese mayonnaise
  • Japanese mustard

First make the karaage chicken by marinating the chicken pieces in the soy sauce, sake and ginger for at least half an hour.  When done, remove the chicken pieces from the marinade, drain, and coat it in the cornstarch.  Heat up an inch of vegetable oil in a saucepan to medium-high heat (you can test if it’s hot enough by dropping a small bit of marinade and cornstarch in the oil and it should sizzle immediately).  Fry all the chicken pieces until golden brown (you may need to do this in two batches, depending on the size of your pan) and drain on paper towels.  At this point you’ll want to just eat all the chicken pieces then and there.  It’s almost impossible not to eat a few, so I always make extra to accommodate for this.

Now onto the Po’ Boy part.  Slice your bread open and smear on a good dollop of Japanese mayo and Japanese mustard.  If you don’t have Japanese mustard, you can use American mustard or anything else to give it some kick (sriracha sauce is a good alternative).  Fill up the Po’ Boy with your freshly made karaage chicken, sliced shallots and lettuce.  Smack your lips and enjoy.

Serves 2

JAM: Soil and “Pimp” Sessions – Waltz for Goddess

For a dish that combined flavours from Japan and New Orleans, how could not go with some heavy Japanese jazz?  I’ve decided to go with a more modern band this round and choose a track from Soil and “Pimp” Sessions called Waltz for Goddess. I first heard about Soil and “Pimp” through Giles Peterson’s radio show in 2005 and was instantly hooked on their ferocious energy and undeniable cool.

Hailing from Tokyo and known for coining terms like ‘death jazz’ and ‘punk jazz’, these guys are meant to be incredible live so be sure to catch them if they ever tour in your area.  This isn’t elevator jazz, so turn it up and grab some cold ones to go with your Po’ Boys.

Hassel your local record store or buy the album online here.

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Portuguese Chicken with Peri Peri Sauce

One of my favourite things to do in Sydney is head to Little Portugal and go to town on some Petersham Charcoal Chicken.  The whole street smells like charcoal chicken so it’s pretty hard to go through there without deciding to stop and eat.  Now that I don’t live in the Inner West anymore it’s a little harder to just swing by there, so I’ve started making this myself at home.  I also have the unfortunate living situation where I don’t have an outdoor space that allows a barbecue, so I’ve made this version under my grill.  I highly recommend using a barbecue with coals to get the proper smokey flavour, but if you can’t, this method certainly does the trick.

Portugese Chicken with Peri Peri Sauce

Portugese Chicken with Peri Peri Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 8 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Pinch salt
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 teaspoon of bay leaf powder
  • 2 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 shots scotch whisky (80mls)
  • 2 tablespoon very soft butter
  • Rock salt

Peri Peri Sauce

  • 10 birdseye chillies, chopped finely
  • Pinch salt
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 100 mls olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of garlic powder

Start with the peri peri sauce by simply mixing all ingredients together.  Move onto the chicken by trimming away excess fat. Butterfly the chicken by taking a sharp knife or kitchen scissors and cut the chicken through the breastbone. Open out, turn over and flatten by pressing down with your hand along the backbone. Make some small cuts under each wing to help it flatten further. To allow the chicken to absorb as much of a marinade as possible, make several incisions in the flesh with a sharp knife.

Mix together the garlic, lemon juice, bay leaf powder, paprika, butter and salt and massage the marinade into the chicken.  Make sure you sprinkle on some extra rock salt.  Cover and let it marinate in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Put your grill to high and place the marinated chicken in a roasting tin underneath for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.  You’ll need to frequently rotate and baste the chicken to make sure it’s cooked evenly.  You’ll get some pieces that will char, but don’t worry as those little burnt bits are delicious.

When it’s all cooked, cut the chicken into pieces with kitchen scissors and brush with the Piri Piri sauce.  Serve with a bowl of handcut chips and get ready for some messy fingers.

Serves: 4

JAM: Rão Kyao – Água De Côco

Rão Kyao - Oásis

I’ve never been to Portugal, but this song sums up all the images I have in my head of the country.  Relaxing, unique, mysterious, easy going…  I have no idea if any of that is true to Portugal, but it’s a romantic image in my head that I choose to believe.  The track I’ve chosen is by Portugese saxophone and bamboo flute artist Rão Kyao, from his 1986 album Oasis.  The song, Água De Côco, is a lovely track mixing oriental melodies and traditional Portuguese fado music that’s just funky enough to get your toe tapping as you sink deeper into your chair.  You’ll want to after you’ve eaten so much chicken.

Annoyingly, I haven’t been able to upload a version of this track to stream without the copyright police removing it, but you can check the sample on iTunes and buy it from there.  You should, really, because it’s worth it.

For vinyl lovers, you can buy the record online from discogs.  Shout out to the excellent blog The Growing Bin for putting this onto me.


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Black risotto with squid

This is a recipe that I made with my older sister for a bunch of our friends when I was down in Melbourne a couple weeks ago.  As I mentioned in a previous post, my older sister is an amazing cook, photographer and food blogger.  Prior to moving to Melbourne a couple months ago, she was living in Tuscany for the past 5 years with her Italian husband (who is a sommelier and an amazing cook), so she knows a thing or two about Italian cooking.

Black risotto with squid

We used a risotto rice from Verona called “Vialone Nano” (as opposed to the more commonly known rices arborio and carnaroli). Vialone Nano is one of the best rices to use for risotto – it’s smaller and absorbs liquids faster but it can tend to be easy to overcook so make sure you taste as you go.  It comes from Verona in the Veneto region of Italy (where Venice also is) – and according to my sister is the place for rice-growing and the place to eat risotto.

My sister pulled the recipe from Pellegrino Artusi’s 1891 cookbook, Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, which was the first book that put together the varied cuisines of each region of Italy into one and called it “Italian”.  He calls this dish “Black risotto with squid, Florentine style” because the original recipe is supposed to have silverbeet in it (apparently Florentines like silverbeet!). We took out the silverbeet and served it as a side dish instead, sauteed with soaked raisins and toasted pinenuts. Yum.

Ingredients

  • 2 whole squid, cleaned (your fishmonger can do this), and shopped into rings or bite-sized pieces
  • 8 grams of squid ink (find it in Italian delis)
  • 1 small brown onion, chopped finely
  • 1/2 a stalk of celery, chopped finely
  • a few parsley stalks, chopped, plus parsley leaves, chopped for garnish
  • 500 grams of Vialone Nano (or Carnaroli) rice
  • a glass of dry white wine
  • water
  • a knob of butter
  • a drizzle of olive oil

Saute the onion, celery and parsley stalks in the butter and olive oil over a gentle heat. You don’t want the onion to brown but to become slowly transparent. Add the rice and stir to coat it in the oil and butter for a minute or so. When this also becomes transparent, add the wine, the squid ink and and stir. The rice will take about 17 minutes to cook – maybe even slightly less with Vialone Nano – so when the liquid begins to evaporate, add some more water, about 1/2 a cup full at a time, so that there is always liquid in the pan (but not too much). Remember to shake the pan as every now and then so the rice is tossed.

About 5 minutes before you estimate the rice should be done, add the squid and continue cooking. You want the risotto to still have enough liquid it in so that when you shake the saucepan, it moves easily. Dish up and garnish with parsley.

As a side note, if anyone wants to use the silverbeet in the recipe, the proportions are 600 grams of rice, 600 grams of squid and 600 grams of silverbeet. Consider that 400 grams of uncooked rice is enough for 6 people when you’re using these proportions.

Serves 8

JAM: Tony Esposito – Pagaia

The track I’ve chosen is an 80s Italian record from Tony Esposito, and was a favourite of Italian DJ Danielle Baldelli. Baldelli made his name in the 80s playing at the Verona based club Cosmic and developed a loyal following playing an eclectic mix of slow but percussive African, Brazilian, funk, disco and synth music. Often playing records at wrong speeds (at 33 instead of 45 and vice versa), Baldelli and his ‘cosmic’ sound is cherished in certain underground circles  and the records on his playlists remain sought after items by collectors and DJs.  Baldelli played in Sydney for Vivid festival last year and still proved to be on his game with his records sounding more relevant than ever.

The track that I am showcasing is off Tony Esposito’s excellent 1982 album Tamburo and also hides other Cosmic classics like Je-Na.  It’s funky, psychedelic, a little weird, but makes fantastic dance music, which is exactly what the cosmic sound is all about.  Listen below:

You can find this album on vinyl second hand from places like Discogs or you can buy the mp3 on iTunes.  Go hunt down some of Danielle Baldelli’s mixes online if you like what you hear.

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Tonkatsu burger

Another Japanese post and another one of my all-time favourite dishes, tonkatsu.  For those who don’t know, tonkatsu is a Japanese dish where a pork fillet is dipped in an egg coating, rolled in panko breadcrumbs and fried until golden and crispy.  It’s hugely popular in Japan and is usually served with rice and shredded cabbage or alongside Japanese curry.  It’s also commonly served with a delicious sweet and salty sauce commonly called tonkatsu sauce, but was always known in my house as ‘bulldog sauce’ due to the picture of a bulldog on the brand that my mum would always buy.  I still call it that too.

This recipe combines my love of tonkastu with my love of American fast food to create the Tonkatsu burger.  It’s dead simple with very few ingredients, but that’s the way I prefer my burgers.  Feel free to experiment and add loads of extras.

Tonkatsu Burger

Ingredients

  •  2 decent sized pork fillets
  • Flour for dusting
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Panko breadcrumbs
  • Vegetable oil
  • Cabbage, shredded finely
  • 2 x burger buns
  • Tonkatsu sauce
  • Kewpie mayonnaise (Japanese mayonnaise)

Unlike the Austrian schnitzel, the Japanese tonkasu is usually quite thick (about 1 – 1.5 inches thick), but because we’re not slicing this like a traditional tonkatsu, you might need to beat the pork with a mallet down to about an inch if you have a particularly thick cut. Also try to get your pork piece so it roughly covers the circumference of your burger bun.

Set up three shallow bowls or plates in a line – one with flour and a dash of salt and pepper, one with a beaten egg and another with Panko breadcrumbs.  Take the pork and dust it in the flour, then coat the pork in the egg mixture and finally cover in the breadcrumbs, pressing down to make sure it sticks around the whole pork.  Repeat with the other piece of pork.

Heat a decent amount of vegetable oil in a pan so you get at least a centimetre in your pan.  You can test if it’s hot enough by dropping a spare breadcrumb and it should crisp up in about 10 seconds.  When it’s hot enough, carefully place your breaded pork in the oil and let it shallow fry for about 3 minutes or until the breadcrumbs get all golden and crispy.  Turn your pork over and fry on the other side for a few minutes until it’s golden and cooked through.  Take it out of the pan and let it rest of some paper towels for a few minutes.

Slice open two burger buns and lightly toast or steam them.  Place your cooked pork on the bottom half of your burger and swirl on a generous amount of tonkatsu sauce (seriously – the stuff is delicious and you’ll want more).  Top with a good serving of shredded cabbage and top that with a big dollop of Japanese mayonaise before finishing it with the top of the burger bun.

Serve with some homemade chips and an Ahsahi beer.  For another Japanese flavour, sprinkle the chips with nori (seaweed) flakes as seasoning.

Serves 2.

JAM: Happy End – Haru Yo Koi

Happy End - Happy End (1970)

When I think burgers, I think rock.  When I think Japanese rock, I think of Happy End.  Happy End was a Japanese band that only existed from 1970-1973 but were hugely influential in Japan and still today regularly top the ‘best of’ lists when it comes to Japanese bands.  Even if you know nothing about Japanese music, you’ve probably heard Kaze Wo Astumete, which was featured on the Lost in Translation soundtrack.  They fit somewhere between the sweet spot of folk, psych and bluesy rock and they’re well worth checking out.

While their album Kazemachi Roman is probably their most well known (and for good reason too), I’m going to choose a song from their first self titled album.  Prior to this album, Japanese rock artists usually sang in English because at the time that’s what Japanese rock bands had to do to succeed.  Happy End bucked the trend and sang entirely in Japanese, making a turning point in Japanese music when the album was received very well.  Check out the first song on the album, Haru Yo Koi, below:

Their albums are quite hard to come by but if you dig through the right second hand record stores you can find them (I  found 3 of their albums at Licorice Pie Records in Melbourne last weekend).  Otherwise check out discogs for vinyl/CD copies and impress your friends when they come around for Japanese burgers.

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Flatbread with beetroot leaves, fetta and almonds

Last Sunday was Tropfest in Sydney, and before it was rained out I had a lovely time sitting on a picnic blanket in the Domain eating and drinking with new and old friends.  We had bought some flat bread to go with the excessive amount of hummus and leftover Lebanese food from the night before and so I decided to use the bread to make something that fits the picnic must-have rules.  For those who don’t know, the rules for any picnic food is that they must be fine to eat at room temperature, can be easily eaten by hand without getting messy, and of course be tasty as hell.

Anyway, I appropriated a recipe that I found in the brilliant SBS Feast magazine to make a delicious Greek (ish) vegetarian friendly snack of flatbread with beetroot leaves, fetta and almonds.  It’s a great way to use the Beetroot leaves as most people just throw them away – which is a shame because they’re quite tasty.  It’s so easy to whip up so you have no excuses for not trying this out for your next picnic outing.

Ingredients

  • 10 Beetroots (leaves and stems only)
  • 6 pieces of Flatbread (Lebanese or Greek bread will do)
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • 150 grams of fetta, crumbled
  • 50 grams of almonds, toasted
  • 1 handful of dill, chopped

Wash the beetroot leaves and stems thoroughly, pat dry, roughly chop into 2-3 inch pieces and leave them aside. Melt the butter in the pan and add the onion for about 5 minutes or until soft. Add garlic and cook for another minute before throwing in the fennel seeds and cumin for another minute or so.  Add the beetroot leaves and stems, cover and cook for 10 minutes while shaking the pan occasionally.  You may need to add a bit of water to pan to help soften the stems during this period, but once your 10 minutes is up, take the lid off to allow the liquid to dry off.  Add some cracked pepper and put this mix aside.

In another pan, add a little olive oil over low-medium heat and toast up your flatbread for 30 seconds or so.  You’ll need to work quickly (so you don’t burn the bread) and spread a third of the beetroot leaf mix over the flatbread, as well as a third of the fetta and sprinkle with almonds and dill.  Place another piece of flatbread over the top like a sandwich and press down with a spatula so the feta melts and sticks to the top.  Once it’s fully warmed through, take it off the pan, flip it over and toast the other side with a splash of olive oil.  Put aside to cool and repeat this process until you’ve used up the remaining flatbread and beetroot mixture.  Cut into quarters.

Serves 6 as part of a picnic spread

JAM: Abel – Aegean Sea

The dish that I’ve chosen isn’t really Greek so I’m choosing a track that references and conjures up images of Greece, but also isn’t Greek. It’s in fact a track from a British band that’s been edited by a Dutchman. The track in question is an edit by DJ and record collector Abel appropriately called Aegean Sea, which came out on Noncollective last year.  For those who don’t know, Noncollective hosts mixes of some of the best (and underrated) record collector/DJs – all of whom have impeccable taste in music and manage to unearth rare and hidden gems in music.  Do yourself a favour and download away.

Abel - Aegean Sea 12"

Abel - Aegean Sea 12"

Back to the track, Aegean Sea is perfect summer song which will make you want to dance on the Greek shores and forget about your troubles. Equally as perfect for gearing you up for your picnic, the track has been edited to perfection by looping the memorable guitar riffs along with the 70s psyched out vocals.  You’ll never want summer to end. Listen here:

They only pressed up 300 copies of these, which sold in a flash, so if you’re after a copy on vinyl you’ll have to hit up eBay or discogs.  You should grab one if you can – not only is the music great, but the artwork is also excellent. If you want the next best thing, you can download the original track on iTunes, Smokie – We’re Flying High.

If you happen to be in Sydney and want to hear more music like this, head down to Med Club at Chingalings on Oxford St every Saturday afternoon from 3-8. I’ll be playing records like this on the balcony along with Steele BonusHole in the Sky DJs and guests. Stay tuned to a live experience of Dinner Jams when we take over the BBQ!

Med Club!

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Sour cherry and cinnamon sorbet

OK lovers, this Valentine’s day post is for you.  Actually, scratch that – it’s more for my lovely lady.  She’s currently in Laos shooting a film and doesn’t return for a couple weeks, but I wanted to make her something on Valentine’s Day that she can still eat when she gets back.  It’ll be hard, but I’ll do my best not to eat it all.

This is a beautifully deep red sour cherry and cinnamon sorbet that’s perfect for this time of year.  Not just because it makes a nice Valentines Day treat, but it’s perfect for a warm summer’s night. No need for an ice cream machine or anything like that either – all you need is some Tupperware and a freezer.

I should also mention that I got this recipe from my older sister, Emiko Davies, who runs a food and photography blog by the same name.  She recently moved from Florence to Melbourne but she still mainly focuses on the incredible food out of Tuscany. Her writing, photography and cooking puts mine to shame, but it’s great to have someone to look up to! Go check it out!

Sour cherry and cinnamon sorbet

Ingredients

  • 1 kilo of frozen sour cherries, thawed
  • 200 grams of sugar
  • 200 ml of water
  • 1 cinnamon stick

I used frozen sour cherries for this recipe, but if you can find the real deal, by all means go for it as I’m certain they’ll be tastier.  Take a handful of the cherries and put them in a small pan with a cinnamon stick and about 40 grams sugar.  Gently heat the mixture until the sugar has dissolved and it’s turned into syrup.  Take it off the heat and set aside to cool.

Take the rest of the cherries and squash them up in a bowl using a pestle or masher so you can squeeze out the juices.  Place a sieve over a saucepan and pour the smashed cherries over it to separate the skins and seeds so you’re left with just sour cherry juice.

Add water and the rest of the sugar to the cherry juice in the saucepan and bring to boil, remembering to stir often.  Throw in the cinnamon stick from earlier and let the mixture boil for two minutes.  Take it off the heat, remove the cinnamon and let it cool.  Once cooled, put the mixer in an Tupperware container with a lid and freeze for at least 5 hours or overnight.

When frozen, take it out of the freezer and loosen the sorbet with a fork. Just before serving, stir through the cherry syrup mixture from earlier and serve in small glasses.

Serves 6

JAM: Buckingham Nicks – Frozen Love

The track I’ve chosen to accompany this Valentines Day dish is Buckingham Nicks’ classic Frozen Love from their one and only album.  This is a very young, but clearly talented Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks before they hooked up with Fleetwood Mac and were hurled into stardom.  Actually, it was Frozen Love that was their ticket to Fleetwood Mac.  After hearing the brilliant vocal harmonies and skilled guitar work on Frozen Love, Mick Fleetwood approached Buckingham and Nicks to join Fleetwood Mac and the rest is history.  Stream the track below:

I highly recommend trying to hunt down the album on vinyl from your local second hand record store or Discogs. Not just because vinyl is infinitely better (the CD was never reissued and the album isn’t on iTunes) but to take advantage of the artwork (posted above) and get a good look at the young Stevie and Lindsay.   Sexy.

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Mussels with lemongrass and chilli

Thai food is one of those cuisines that I never bothered to learn too much about as we enjoy such a high abundance of great Thai restaurants in Sydney.  However, after spending a few weeks in northern Thailand over the new year, I developed a strong appreciation for the flavours and the culture and now I can’t stop cooking their food! It’s all so fragrant, well balanced and delicious, I’m a bit of an idiot for not learning how to cook Thai earlier.

This dish I’m taking you through today is Mussels with lemongrass and chilli.  It’s incredibly easy to whip up and even easier to scoff down.  And really, there’s nothing much better than inviting friends around to tackle a huge pot of mussels.

Mussels with Lemongrass and Chilli

Mussels with Lemongrass and Chilli

Ingredients

  • 1 kilogram of mussels
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 5 lemon grass stalks, white part only, thinly sliced
  • 2 inches of galangal, cut into 7-8 slices
  • 3 long red chillies, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoon of fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoon of lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • vegetable oil
  • Holy basil leaves, roughly chopped

First things first, you’ve got to scrub the mussels and remove the beards to make sure you don’t have any gritty pieces in your meal.  If you’re using live mussels (as opposed to frozen ones), discard any open ones and any that don’t close when tapped on.

Heat some oil in a wok or big pot at medium heat and stir fry the garlic, onion, lemongrass, galangal and chillies for about 2 minutes.  Add the mussels to the pan and toss all the herbs in with the mussels for a few more minutes before adding the fish sauce, lime juice and sugar.  Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes, shaking the pan or wok frequently until the shells are open.  Discard any unopen shells.  Mix in the holy basil and adjust the seasoning if necessary.  Serve immediately with a side of steamed rice – it’s fantastic to pour the juices over the rice at the end.

Serves 4

JAM

While America, Africa and Europe were being extensively mined by beat diggers in the 90s and 00s, it seems that collectors have only recently turned their attention to the funky sounds out of Thailand.  Collector/DJ/Store owner Maft Sai from ZudRangMa Records has been instrumental in getting the word out about Luk Thung, Molam and other forms of Thai funk to the masses through compilations on such labels as Finders Keepers, Soundway and Light in the Attic.

While I was in Thailand, I happened to stumble across two compilations: Luk Thung! The Roots of Thai Funk and Thai Funk ZudRangMa – both highly recommended and a great starting point for Thai funk.  Not only do you get a compilation of some of the rarest and funky records to come out of Asia, both CDs also come beautifully packaged and include posters.  One comes in a hand stitched cloth with beautiful Thai patterns and the other in a delicate bamboo casing.  Amazing packaging:

The track I’ve chosen to accompany this dish is called Noom rai poor (kenaf farm man) by The Royal Sprites from the second Thai Funk compilation.  I haven’t been able to find out too much info on this band, but they seemed to be a pretty big deal in Thailand in the early 80s and made a few crossover hits covering the likes of Boney M.  Just wait for the killer keyboard solo that comes in two thirds of the way through. Stream The Royal Sprites – Noom rai por (kenaf farm man) below:

Light in the Attic have just reissued the Thai Funk compilations on vinyl so grab them while you can here.

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Puerco Pibil

If you’re a fan of Robert Rodriguez’s Once Upon a Time in Mexico, then you’re probably well acquainted with this dish.  You may have even already looked up the 10 minute cooking school that Rodriguez hosted in the DVD extras, which is where this recipe comes from.  Puerco Pibil (also known as cochinita pibil) is a traditional Mexican slow roasted dish that is marinated in acidic juices and an array of spices – most notably annatto seed, which is what gives this dish its fantastic red colour.  The acid in the marinade tenderises the meat and the additional 4 hours in the oven makes the pork melt in your mouth.  What more could you want?

Enjoy this dish alongside green rice, salsa, hungry friends and plenty of beer.  It also makes fantastic leftovers to do it all over again for lunch.

Puerco Pibil

Puerco Pibil with green rice and salsa

Ingredients

  • 2 kilograms of pork shoulder, cut into 2 inch chunks
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 5 lemons, juiced
  • 8 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 2 habanero peppers, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of tequila
  • banana leaves

Annatto paste:

  • 5 tablespoons of annatto seeds
  • 2 teaspoons of cumin
  • 1 tablespoon of black peppercorns
  • 8 pieces allspice
  • ½ teaspoon of cloves

If you have a spare coffee grinder (that isn’t used with coffee) then use this to grind up the annatto seeds.  If you don’t happen to own one, you can always use a motar and pestle but just be warned that you’ll be working up a bit of a sweat to grind them down finely.  Grind up the remaining annatto paste ingredients and set this aside.

Mix the orange juice, vinegar, salt, lemon, garlic, peppers and tequila with the annatto paste and pour over the pork shoulder. Leave to marinate for 30 minutes. Line up a tray with banana leaves and pour in the pork shoulder and marinade and wrap it up the best you can.  Cover completely with aluminium foil and put in a preheated oven for 4 hours at 160 degrees Celsius.

While this is cooking, you have plenty of time to decide what to eat with it.  My favourite is green rice and salsa, but this also makes a great filling for tacos or burritos.

Serves 6

JAM:

I can’t help but relate slow cooked comfort food with deep and heavy soul music.  Something about the honesty and simplicity. The song I’ve chosen is a psych-soul cover of the Romeo and Juliet theme from Mexican funk band Rabbits and Carrots.  The song, Romeo & Julieta, is from the album Soul Latino, which is an album well worth seeking out featuring mostly covers of funk and soul legends.  It’s slow, moody, yearns for the older days and the perfect accompaniment to this dish. Listen here:

The good people at Vampi Soul have recently reissued this so you should be able to find it at your local record store.   Alternatively, you can order your copy online here.

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